Last weekend, I attended the online Armchair Adventure Festival. The event, as usual, was a blast, and it was extra awesome to see how many females presented their own rider accomplishments. However, one story mentioned briefly at the fest struck me.
Sharni Pinfold was an up-and-coming female moto racer. The 25-year-old Australian participated in the English Moto3 Championship and then competed in three rounds of the Women’s European Cup, where she was in the top ten. She’d progressed from the Australian domestic series to IDM Supersport and, by 2020, was making her debut at SSP300 at Magny-Cours.
Sharni’s dream was to become a motorcycle racer, but just as she was rising to success, Sharni announced she was quitting due to sexism and derogatory comments within a male-dominated industry.
A post on her Instagram account dated February 2021 reads: “I would not wish what I’ve been through upon anyone, so [if] my speaking up and standing for what is right can help anybody, then I feel it is necessary to do so.”
Sharni did not make direct accusations or point fingers in her post, choosing instead to tell followers, “This is not just me, there are many other women that have been treated poorly, and as a result, I hope to be able to empower others to know the importance and value of self-worth.”
In a Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM) statement, CFM Director, Ms. Nita Korhonen, said, “The FIM does not accept any kind of discrimination towards our riders, regardless of their gender. We are one motorcycling family; everyone is welcome. No inappropriate or disturbing comments or actions shall be tolerated.”
The side effect of sexism and harassment means there is now a woman out there who will never fully realize her potential as a motorcycle racer.
In celebration of Women’s History Month, I wanted to send out a request: please support the female rider in your life. If you happen to be that female rider, know that there are an increasing number of places and resources around the world where you are welcome and can get the info you seek and crave.
You’ll find invaluable information at events like the Armchair Adventure Festival, which has all-female “corners” and women presenters willing to answer pretty much any female-specific question you have.
The upcoming (March 12-13) Women’s Motorcycle Conference will leave you wanting to get out and explore on that bike that’s been sitting for far too long and also help you connect with other females.
The Women’s International Motorcycle Association (WIMA) is an organization for all women of any ability where you can communicate with female riders from all over the world.
There are also a smattering of Facebook groups women can join to talk about what irks them in the motorcycle industry or get answers to sometimes embarrassing questions from more-experienced travelers.
This May 2020 article tells us that females currently make up more than 20 percent of all riders in the US. We can thank our foremothers for that. (Check out this informative book called Grace and Grit or Bad Girls On Bikes.)
We can also thank the men and women putting together events and resources that embrace and welcome the female rider.
Sharni’s experience above is disheartening, but I hope her brave decision to call attention to the discriminatory issues within the competitive world of motorcycling will mean a more positive experience for riders to follow.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment in the US guaranteeing women’s right to vote. Overlooking the fact that it took more than 20 years into the 20th century to realize voting should be a thing for women, it’s encouraging to see that, in the case of the Centennial Ride, for example, women are jumping on bikes to honor the suffragist movement. Why not join them?
In the meantime, support your fellow female riders, along with the organizations and in-person or online festivities, helping us all unite.
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